A walk from the Furnace at Duddon Bridge to the Stone Circle.
Dunnerdale, with its wooded slopes, open fells and superb views provides tranquil walking, but it was not always so quiet. In 1736 Duddon blast furnace was built. It required a large number of workers to toil all year round to service it, producing charcoal or wresting iron from the ore that arrived by barge at the mouth of the Duddon river. Each working day two tons of cast iron were produced. The very fine stone circle, visited later on the walk, has 51 stones and was probably erected by Neolithic man. Remember to allow time on the walk to see both these spectacular artefacts.
Park in a layby beside the gate into the Duddon Furnace, grid ref 197882. Access this from Broughton-in Furness by the A595. Cross Duddon Bridge and turn right for Corney Fell. The layby is a few yards along.
1 Go through the gate to explore the magnificent remains of the Duddon Iron Furnace to your right. Return to the track and continue ahead to pass a dwelling on your left. Follow the waymark that directs you slightly left on a grassy path. Cross an access track to a dwelling and continue up a rain-worn stony path, the route taken by packhorses loaded with pig iron. The way crosses a small stream and continues up to reach a low waymark. Ignore the left turn (your return route) and continue up through the splendid woodland, with the stream on your left. Look for the many old deciduous trees that were continually coppiced when the furnace was in use. Follow the path as comes against a ruined wall, on the right, and then begin to climb on wide zigzags, through lofty pines, that reduce the gradient of the track. Bear right at the top, almost at the edge of the trees, and after a steeper short climb you reach a waymarked gate on to the fell, Penny Brows. Beyond, go straight up on a narrow path through tall bracken in high summer.
2 At the brow you leave the tiresome weed behind and the path moves out onto high moorland criss-crossed by drystone walls. Ignore a left turn and follow the path as it curves right and brings you to another gate. Once through the path climbs against the wall on the left and soon becomes walled on both sides but it is always wet and bouldery. It is easier to make a diversion by turning right beyond the gate and after a few steps, left, gently ascending a wide grassy way, keeping parallel with the walled path. Follow this trod all the way until you approach a cross wall and then wind left onto the track to pass through another gate.
3 Keep uphill beside the fine wall to your left, the way soon becoming drier and a pleasure to walk. As it begins to descend look for a wide grassy way turning away from the wall, right. It soon bends left and continues, a delight to walk and keeping parallel with the wall but well above it. Look down on an old sheepfold against the wall. Behind the wall grow many tall ash trees shielding Thwaite Yeat farm from view. Pass between several old slate spoil heaps of an old quarry, with an intriguing cave visible to the right.
4 Go ahead on the path, keeping well up the slopes of Barrow Fell. Running parallel to the path, on the right, are grassy trods if the puddles on the path are too wide or too deep. Pause to enjoy the emerging magnificent view. Watch out for where the grassy trod crosses a stream then winds left to cross it again. Beyond, pick up a good track from the farm and follow it, right, across the moorland towards the road over Corney Fell. Suddenly the track seems to disappear. Look towards the road to see a signpost and a footpath sign and head towards them. This should bring you to the bend, right, on the Corney Fell Road. Turn sharp left to walk the lovely high-level lane in the direction of Broadgate, with Lath Rigg to your right, until you reach a large outcropping of rock on the left. Here take the signposted reinforced track on the right, signed Fenwick.
5 Enjoy this lovely half-mile walled track, with more pleasing views ahead. Go through a gate and then follow the track as it curves left to cross a small bridge before continuing beside the wall and the farmhouse, Fenwick, on the right. At the signpost, tucked up in a wall corner under trees, turn left and walk a few steps to the next signpost. Notice the angle of the arm, pointing ahead, and go on over the pasture to climb the wall via a ladderstile. Walk ahead to a step stile to the right of a gate and then drop down the slope, slippery after rain, to a wooden footbridge, over lovely Black Beck hidden among trees. Pause here to look down on the hurrying beck and the white topped cascades. Climb the slope beyond and bear left along a narrow, dry path high on the open fell.
6 Keep ahead through the middle of a large pasture to reach a wide grassy swathe used by farm vehicles. Turn right and very soon, left, to follow the track, to avoid a large area of marshy ground. Go on to join a reinforced track, coming in on your right, and leading towards the farm ahead. Go through two gates to the right of the farm buildings, and after the last barn arc round left to join the reinforced access road to the farmhouse. Keep right, descending gently, until you reach the signed entrance gate in the wall, on the left, to the dramatic Swinside circle, once known as Sunkenkirk, where more than 50 stones make up a 100-feet diameter circle.
7 Return to the entrance gate, turn left and descend the wide reinforced track for half-a-mile until you reach the narrow valley road once more. Carry on ahead to pass through woodland and, just before two white semi-detached houses, take the signposted gap stile on the left. Drop down the lovely grassy slope to a squeeze stile in the corner of the wall, on your right, and bear right to come to stepping stones across Black Beck. Climb the slope beyond and wind left through the waymarked gate and then right along the narrow lane. At the T-junction bear left to soon join the A-road. Walk left and after 200 yards take the second left for Ash House.
8 Descend the delightful lane, passing under some very old horsechestnut trees and as you approach the house keep to the right branch to walk beside a thick shrubbery on the left. Where the track swings left, go ahead up an almost hidden path that winds left to a gate. Beyond, turn left to climb an easy stile and then walk right on a narrow path close to the hedge on the right. Stroll on to climb the stiled way and walk on to a gate into shady Stanley Wood, where the oaks and sycamore show signs of coppicing in the past.
9 Carry on this narrow path, gradually climbing almost to the top edge of the trees. It eventually arrives at a low waymark, directing you down a narrow path sloping quite steeply in places – very similar to your upward route at the start of the walk. Then it widens, levels and sweeps left through the trees to come to the waymark ignored at the outset of the walk. Step across the stream, turn right and and descend to cross the access track. Take the narrow path opposite to reach the Furnace once more and the gate to the parking layby.
Distance: 7 miles
Time: 3-4 hours
Terrain: Some good paths, tracksand lanes. Some wet paths after this summer’s rains – which, generally, can be avoided.
Map: OS Explorer OL6
NB: Restrictions on space mean that this article provides a general summary of the route. It is advisable for anyone who plans to follow the walk to take a copy of the relevant Ordnance Survey map.